It’s time the fifth generation of the Toyota-Kirloskar legacy takes center stage. In an exclusive interview with Exhibit, Gen Next Business Icon, Manasi Kirloskar gives insights into her journey and role as the Executive Director & CEO of Kirloskar Systems Ltd. In addition to that, she also discusses her entrepreneurial ventures with us and talks about her views on India as a startup hub.
Can you throw light on your entrepreneurial ventures and elaborate them.
MANASI: I underwent rigorous training at out joint venture company Toyota Kirloskar Motor. Now I work there and also drive my own entrepreneurial ventures. Immediately after graduation, I started work at our large hospital greenfield project. It gave me project management experience.
“ Tech transcends professional and personal. One now uses tech in a personal capacity to inform or motivate a professional platform. ”
My first entrepreneurial venture thereafter was a Real Estate Project. It’s a High-end luxury residential project on a 14.5-acre plot of land. Its architectural design is very unique and a first in India. The buildings are divided into two parts. The twisted design of the tower is oriented to optimize the views of the lake from all angles. It’s very tough to design and engineer.
The complex offers restaurants, clubhouses, jogging track, public and private swimming pools, helipads, large gardens, a spa and a “Quintessential” membership to all residents. My next project is for commercial spaces. The second, an innovation in a rural health care Project, is attached to an existing company called Kirloskar Technologies. Remote villages in India do not have access to basic over the counter medication. The idea is to use technology and smart infrastructure to make OTC medication easily accessible.
But my most recent social impact start up is closest to my heart! Called “Caring With Colors-“ A Manasi Kirloskar Initiative”. The Indian education system must deliver education in a way that caters to dynamic global demands. Insular subject teaching is redundant and India needs to pursue a more holistic system of education. Interdisciplinary Creative teaching is essential. Caring with Colors aims to change the education paradigm. It will also explore ways in which the Arts can be used as a tool to diagnose specific kinds of mental health problems among children between ages 8-14.
How useful are the learnings you acquired from your Family business and how do they help you in your entrepreneurial ventures?
MANASI: My family businesses have a 150-year legacy! I have been raised in an environment that built strong values and a work culture. I learned to be loyal to the family legacy and build on our core values of quality, ethics and corporate governance. I grew up listening to business discussions, factory get togethers, Board meetings, etc. This orientation helps me in all my ventures. My biggest learning was to do things right with no shortcuts; to never compromise on ethics. With each generation comes change. I am now that “change” and will have to take certain risks and create my own learnings while maintaining the core values.
What are the negatives and positives of India as a startup hub?
MANASI: We all know that India has the largest growing youth population in the world and that is our greatest wealth. We are a young and energized country and there are so many gaps to be filled and new avenues/ventures to be developed. The biggest positive is that our Prime Minister believes in entrepreneurship and is making changes to aid our start-up revolution. Education, I think, could improve. Only a very small percent of our economy has access to quality education. If quality education is spread across equally, our start-up environment will become stronger. Also, there’s a lot of paperwork involved in starting and shutting down of a company. This process should be made simpler.
You were a Jury member at “Exhibit’s 100 Hottest Startups”. How was your experience?
MANASI: It was fantastic and I have to compliment Exhibit for this initiative. It was great to see the kind of enthusiasm India generates across age groups! I observed there were no age limitations for start-ups. So many eclectic ideas in a single room and I not only felt like a jury member but also like a student because I learned so much!
Were you to invest in any startup, what essential qualities would you look for in it?
1.A passionate and motivated leader who is in touch with reality
3.A product/service that can adapt to dynamic changes
4.An entrepreneur who can forecast trends because I think it’s essential for a product/service to continuously re-invent itself in order to remain on top of the curve.
“Manasi and Tech” – what is the relationship like on a professional and personal basis?
MANASI: Tech transcends professional and personal. In fact, I think it continuously diminishes boundaries between the two. One now uses tech in a personal capacity to inform or motivate a professional platform. I still try to keep certain platforms completely private. It’s quite amazing just how much of our lives we project to the public!
What are your thoughts on the Tech scene in India and where do you see it heading in the next 5 years?
MANASI: Still, a very small part of India’s population has access to the internet. Its access will hopefully spread wider and faster in the next 5 years. This will provoke a larger number of Startups as the number of connected markets increase alongside a great opportunity to create new value and supply chains to respond to diverse markets. However, I also see competition for home entrepreneurs to increase as India opens doors to foreign competition- we already see that happening today.
Can you chalk out your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
MANASI: My greatest strengths are my ability to think creatively, adapt to dynamic conditions and people management. It’s tough to reveal a weakness! But here goes- I have a very large number of interests. I think I could be better at scheduling these varied interests.
Describe one quintessential day in the life of Manasi Kirloskar.
MANASI: That’s a complicated question! I have to manage my time between my start-up, entrepreneurial ventures + existing businesses. They all involve a lot of travel! I divide my week between the three. The common thread being that I sleep by 10.30/11pm every night, wake up at 7 am every morning and work out in the gym every single day!
Being a sole heiress to such a huge conglomerate must be challenging. What do you hope to bring to the Kirloskar legacy from your end?
MANASI: I hope to maintain our core values of trust, ethics and corporate governance but at the same time I hope to bring Change. I will have to take certain risks and create my own learnings, while maintaining the core values. I hope to diversify and create my own legacy. I also want to catch all my dreams and continue to create new ones.
Best piece of advice given to you: Let go of your ego
Business Gurus: SL Kirloskar – my great grandfather and Rajiv and Sanjiv Bajaj (Bajaj Auto + Bajaj Fin Serv)
Business Mantra: Nothing beats hard work
Must-have tech gadget that’s not your phone or laptop: My compact charger – does that even count as a gadget? Or wireless headphones.
Most unique tech gadget: Autonomous cars use very advanced control systems to realise sensory information. The synthesis of such varied systems and technologies used together to create a self driving vehicle, I think is very cool.
One indispensable morning routine: Brushing my teeth and checking my emails at the same time!
TV shows you’re an ardent follower of: Mad Men and The Night Manager
Favourite books: “The philosophy of Andy Warhol” by Andy Warhol, “Pregnant King” by Devdutt Patnaik and “Palace of Illusions” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.